Arturo Sarukhán
Sarukhán: "Diplomacy with Mexico returning to normal in Biden era"
Diplomacy between the US and Mexico is going back to "normalcy", with both sides willing to look past differences for the sake of a stable working relationship, according to Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico's former ambassador in Washington

Diplomacy between the US and Mexico is going back to "normalcy", with both sides willing to look past differences for the sake of a stable working relationship, according to Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico's former ambassador in Washington

Sarukhán, the founder and president of Sarukhan + Associates, a strategic consulting firm in Washington, served as ambassador to Washington between 2007 and 2013. He also became dean of the Group of Latin American ambassadors during his tenure.

In an interview with LPO, Sarukhán said that this week's virtual meeting between US President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador "shows how US diplomacy is going back to normalcy."

Traditionally, incoming US presidents first sought out their counterparts in Mexico and Canada upon taking office.

"That tradition was broken with Donald Trump," he said. "This [meeting] shows the Biden administration going back to privilege the relationship with the two North American partners, north and south." 

This is an administration that will go back to the habitual, architectural framework of its relationships with both North American partners. That's obviously very important after four years of disruption, unilateral policies, diplomatic ambushes and the Sinatra doctrine of ‘my way or the highway

Biden's only other bilateral meeting so far has been with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also met virtually with his counterpart, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard.

"What this is telling you is that this is an administration that will go back to the habitual, architectural framework of its relationships with both North American partners," Sarukhán said. "That's obviously very important after four years of disruption, unilateral policies, diplomatic ambushes and the Sinatra doctrine of ‘my way or the highway'," he said.

Following Biden's November election, López Obrador was among the last world leaders to congratulate Biden, alongside Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

López Obrador's late congratulatory message, alongside with a decision to travel to Washington in the midst of the presidential campaigns in July 2020 and his defense of Donald Trump after the us leader was removed from Twitter following the January 6 Capitol Hill attack, led some analysts to be concerned that his relationship with Biden would be strained.

Sarukhán, however, said that he believes Biden's administration will "let bygones be bygones" to ensure that the vital US-Mexico relationship remains positive.

"There's a clear understanding that regardless of President López Obrador's sympathy and empathy with Biden's predecessor in the White House, the relationship between both countries is critically important to the well-being and security of the United States," he said.

"At the end of the day, that's what will drive the relationship forward," Sarukhán added.

At the initial stages of the relationship, Sarukhán said he believed the Biden administration will work to create a "narrative of early collaboration and cooperation", particularly with regards to immigration.

"As that success story hopefully evolves, [the two countries] can address other issues that are thornier to address because of sensibilities and what López Obrador's might perceive as the US meddling in the domestic affairs of Mexico," he said.

 In a statement on Wednesday, Antony Blinken specifically outlined the creation of a "human and effective immigration system" as a key pillar of the Biden administration's foreign policy objectives.

"We need to address the root causes that drive so many people to flee their homes," the statement said. "So we'll work closely with other countries, especially our neighbors in Central America, to help them deliver better physical security and economic opportunity so people don't feel like migrating is the only way out and up."

During Monday's meeting, López Obrador also made a request for US authorities to make vaccines, at one point asking Biden whether he'd be "sending vaccines to Mexico?"

"We're going to talk about that," Biden responded, without providing further detail.

According to Sarukhán, this issue will become increasingly important as both countries seek to step up vaccination campaigns and prevent disruptions to essential cross-border supply chains.

"At some point, you're going to have to deal with how you either implement immunization campaigns on both sides of the border, or share vaccination protocols, or share excess vaccines, once the US is in a position to," he said. "If you can Teflon-coat those supply chains, it will be incredibly important for the economic recovery of Mexico and the United States." 

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